Speaker: Una Brogan

My research engages with the long-overlooked bicycle as a crucial literary and cultural object. In a selection of turn-of-the-century fiction, travel writing and non-fiction, cycling is revealed to be a favoured literary device, allowing writers to structure their narratives in new ways or depict fresh sensory and aesthetic experiences. Moreover, this study reveals that from its earliest days, the bicycle played a compelling counter-cultural role, proposing an alternative modernity that directly challenged bourgeois, patriarchal, capitalist society. From blurring gender and class divisions, to offering a more empowering interaction with the machine and allowing an embodied and social experience of space, the bicycle pointed a human-powered route to progress amidst increasingly mechanised visions of the future.

IHR Seminar Series: Transport & Mobility History